Northampton’s Manna provides warm Thanksgiving meal with a side of community

  • Bill Ewers, Jennifer Ventura and Elder Bean, volunteers with the Manna Soup Kitchen, help fill containers with Thanksgiving dinner at the Edwards Church Thursday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Rose Boulay hands Patrick Therrien dinner to go as part of Manna Soup Kitchen’s Thanksgiving Day event at Edwards Church. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Emma Cunningham, a volunteer with the Manna Soup Kitchen, puts dessert in bags with Thanksgiving dinners to be handed out at the Edwards Church Thursday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jessica Bossie, a medical doctor for the homeless community, sits with her three children, Indigo, 2, (blue jacket); Azalea, 5, (pink jacket) and Coco Bossie, 2, as well as her father, Neil Weiss, in Pulaski Park. The family got Thanksgiving Day dinners from Manna Soup Kitchen, on Thursday. To the back left is Jeanne Ingle and to the right is J.D. Edwards. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Angel Pagan sits with his dog, Taco Kisses, and JD Edwards for Thanksgiving Day dinner with, at back, Jessica Bossie, a medical doctor for the homeless community, her father, Neil Weiss, and her three children, Coco, 2, Indigo, 2, and Azalea, 5. They all got dinners provided by Manna Soup Kitchen and ate in Pulaski Park. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 11/26/2021 7:00:31 AM
Modified: 11/26/2021 7:00:15 AM

NORTHAMPTON — On Thursday, Manna Soup Kitchen once again provided hundreds of Thanksgiving dinners to all comers, in what is the nonprofit’s biggest meal of the year.

“We started on Monday prepping,” said Kim Carlino, one of the co-organizers for the organization’s holiday meals.

The Thanksgiving dinners, which were given out to all those who asked, included turkey, cranberry sauce, gravy, salad, a roll, spice cake, green beans and butternut squash. Most of the meals were delivered, although others were picked up at Edwards Church, where the meals were packed up.

Lee Anderson is the head cook for Manna, and he said about 800 meals were served this Thanksgiving.

“This must be my sixth Thanksgiving meal cooking,” he said. “It’s so much work but it doesn’t feel it.”

Anderson said Manna cooked more than 60 turkeys, about 50 of them donated by Konstantine Sierros of Filos Greek Taverna and about a dozen donated by River Valley Market.

Anderson also expressed gratitude for the generosity of the community. “I say thank you to everybody who made this day happen,” he said. “Great town here.”

Sierros donated the turkeys in memory of his two parents, Nikolaos Sierros and Dimitra Sierros. He said that in Greece there is a cultural concept called filotimo — the unconditional gesture of giving.

“It’s been my duty and my privilege to continue this legacy,” Sierros said.

He also said that the recognition should go to Anderson and the volunteers at Manna. “That’s true living filotimo,” he said.

Last year Manna served more than 900 Thanksgiving meals, and Carlino said that in a typical year 500 meals are served.

“It’s a significant increase that’s still carrying into this year,” Carlino said.

Carlino said between 60 and 70 volunteers turned out to make the Thanksgiving meal happen.

“People just show up because they want to be a part of it,” Carlino said.

Nora Finnerty, development director for Manna, said that there’s been a greater awareness of Manna in the community, which has resulted in more people reaching out for help and more support from the community. She also noted the collaborations the organization has with other groups in the community.

“In many different ways the community has shown up for us and our work,” Finnerty said.

Finnerty also said there’s been more awareness about the nature of food insecurity, and that it doesn’t only affect those without homes.

“It’s people who have a home but they’re reaching to the back of their cupboard at the end of the month to pull out that last bag of rice,” Finnerty said.

For the second year in a row, there was no indoor meal service because of COVID-19 concerns.

“We just hope maybe next year to be back in an in-person dining format,” said Kate Cardoso, president of Manna’s board.

However, diners were able to eat in a tent outside of St. John’s Church. Dr. Jessica Bossie, the president of the Independent Housing Solutions, also hosted a gathering in Pulaski Park where people without homes or who were recently homeless could eat their meals together.

“People need a sense of community on Thanksgiving,” Bossie said.

One of the people who took a meal was Stephan Grant, who hails from the Springfield area.

“I was looking forward to getting a meal,” Grant said. Asked what he thought about Thanksgiving this year, Grant said that it “seems peaceful.”

Another person who Manna fed on the holiday was Christopher Perry of Florence. Perry said that he ran out of food, and that he picked up meals for himself and a friend.

J.D. Edwards has been getting Thanksgiving meals from Manna for years, and joined Bossie in Pulaski Park. He also said he got to talk to the woman he loved that day.

Manna serves meals five days a week, and people can sign up for them using the contact form on its website, mannanorthampton.org, which can also facilitate home delivery. People can also come to the meals without signing up.

“Lee always finds a way to feed everyone who shows up,” Cardoso said.

Monday, Tuesday and Thursday meals can be picked up at St. John’s Church starting at 11:30 a.m., while Wednesday meals can be picked up at the church at 6 p.m. Saturday meals are available at Edwards Church starting at 11:30 a.m.

The group is also looking to start a Friday meal soon.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.

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